My name is Tugce, pronounced as 2Che.
I am an evolutionary biologist, yoga teacher and a scientific lecturer in Columbia University. I am currently located in New York with my husband and our cat, Merlin.
I studied genetics and bioengineering with full scholarship, graduated as the first ranking student. I then entered a fast track master program, again fully funded, and did my PhD in Andreas Wagner’s lab. I finished both my masters and PhD in four years with four publications. Then I made a 2-years postdoc with Michael Kruetzen in the Anthropology Department of the University of Zurich, funded by Forschungskredit Postdoc fellowship. Later, I worked in Lausanne as a research associate until I moved to US recently.
I knew about mutations already as a kid: I am born with one hand only, due to Chernobyl. I had lovely parents, who chose to explain me, a kid at that time, what happened very simply and precisely: while I was in my mum’s belly a mutation happened because of the nuclear waves that reached Istanbul.
At the age of 10, I read a children’s book by Billy Aronson on DNA, which made things clearer. Later at high school, our biology teacher, Herr Dittberner told us about evolution and how mutations shape us and the nature. I was fascinated! That’s how I decided to delve into evolutionary research.
I heard about evolution at high school and it shaped my career line! This shows the value of teaching science to young minds. I taught evolution, cancer biology and programming in various workshops in Europe. Since my move to New York, I worked in Brooklyn College, teaching scientific coding as part of a special program for kids from underrepresented backgrounds. Currenly, I teach in Columbia University a scientific core course.
Scientific outreach to young people especially in developing countries is my passion. I do various activities, such as organising, and teaching workshops, writing popular science articles/books and giving talks to non-scientific audience. I head an evolutionary biology school in Turkey that we organize every year with a dozen colleagues every winter for a week. We have brought completely free evolution education to more 120 students so far.
Since early ages, I’ve been involved in various dance groups, and physical activities. What however changed me most is hot yoga! It ensures a healthy spine, strong and relaxed muscles and a focused mind! I decided to become a hot yoga teacher in order to bring yoga to everyone and show that it is accessible to ‘everyBody’! You can check out my successful crowdfunding called ‘Yoga knows no disability’ which sponsored my yoga training. Since my arrival in New York, I taugt in Fierce Grace NY Studio in Lower East Side, free outdoor yoga in Roosevelt Island and start teaching in Roosevelt Island in a studio.
Other Scientific Activities
I did reviewing for Genome Research, BMC Genomics and PLoS One journals.
I am involved in various organisations, including International Society of Computational Biologists and ESEB. I am an active member in the Evolutionary Biology Society of Turkey. We organize every year an evolutionary genomics winter school with experts from relevant fields.
At university, with two other colleagues, we had founded Biotechnology Society of the University to organise journal clubs, conferences, trips to research centres, hence helped the knowhow flow from more experienced students to the new ones. I am proud to see that the society is still active.
During my PhD, I was the student representative of the department. I also got involved in organizing the PhD retreat.
I like writing short stories and essays. Also, as a modern art admirer, I enjoy abstract painting ad sell my acrylic paints.